Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Q&A

Once again this year we get to touch base with Bill who writes the blog Eagle in Atlanta. I don't know of any blogger who has a better handle on the pulse of Boston College so let's get right to his answers. Thanks as always to Bill for the time. Happy Thanksgiving to all the readers of Turtle Waxing. I'll be out of town till Sunday.

1. In the losses to North Carolina and Clemson the common theme seemed to be that the opponent forced BC into turnovers and that decided the game. If that is a fair synopsis, was it just a bad day for the offense or did those defenses do something specific?

EIA:Turnovers have been the story of the BC season. We've forced a ton and also given up too many. Those losses you mentioned weren't just bad days. The Pick 6 was a specialty even in some of BC's wins. We spotted Virginia Tech 14 points and still won. What the defenses did varied. Many of the turnovers were just fumbles from poor holds. The INTs seemed to come more when the Ds sat in zones and read Chris Crane. Crane would force a pass and the underneath guy would jump a route. Now that Crane is gone, we don't know if that INTs will still be an issue.


2. Could you give an update on the quarterback situation for the Eagles this week?

EIA:Redshirt Freshman Dominique Davis will start this Saturday. He's played in three games all year. He looked good against URI, so-so against UCF, bad for most of the Wake game but pulled it together on the final drive. He's got decent arm strength and accuracy. His passes lack zip though and it is unclear how well he reads defenses. The supposed upside of Davis is his athleticism. He really didn't show it against Wake...deer in the headlights comes to mind. Davis admitted his nervousness. It also showed in his hesitation to run. The jitters will hopefully be out of his system this week.

3. Once again the BC defense is a very solid group. They are at the top of the ACC in most meaningful categories and excel at forcing turnovers. On first glance it seems like a "sum is better than the parts" kind of defense but at the same time deep and talented. How would you evaluate the Eagles' defense this season?

EIA: Outstanding. The only game in which they struggled was North Carolina. Outside of that, they've shutdown or slowed every opponent. The points per game are somewhat misleading due to the turnovers and special teams miscues that cost BC points. They have stars upfront in BJ Raji and Ron Brace (both are DTs). Mark Herzlich is in the running for ACC defensive player of the year. He covers a ton of ground and also has the type of instincts that put him in the right place at the right time. The only question mark was the secondary, but at this point in the season, I think they have proven themselves.

4. Many "experts" assumed this would be a rebuilding year with the departure of QB Matt Ryan but BC is again poised to play in the ACC title game for a second straight year. In year two of Jeff Jagodzinski's tenure what is the assessment of his job as head coach?

EIA: The critics started to show themselves when BC lost back to back games against UNC and Clemson. Now it is safe to say that Jags has done a great job over two years. Year 1 he took over a veteran team, didn't screw it up and took them to another level. Not an easy thing (see Louisville 2007). This year he took a team clearly in transition from the TOB roster to his and also produced a winning record (and still has us in the running for an ACC Championship). There's not much more you could ask for. If he keeps his staff in tact and his recruits continue to come in and perform right away, BC should be in good hands during his tenure.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

News & Notes

The Chick-fil-A bowl has Maryland in the "down but not out" category after the FSU debacle. It sounds like the selection committee is looking to select either Georgia Tech or Florida State with Boston College and Virginia Tech trailing. The Terps are probably out of consideration for this bowl unless they soundly defeat BC this weekend.

There was an interesting article in the Washington Post about Michigan State and their new emphasis on transition basketball. Certainly Kalin Lucas has more quickness than Drew Neitzel and so far this season (through only two games) the Spartans are playing slightly more up tempo. According to Ken Pomeroy the 2008 Spartans played at an adjusted tempo of 64.9 while the 2009 Spartans are marginally higher at 69.4, which would place them 9th in the ACC. While their offensive efficiency is currently #1 in the nation the increase in tempo has hurt their defense from the 2008 levels. They have been particularly susceptible to the 3-point shot so perhaps we can look for Eric Hayes, Landon Milbourne and Jin Soo Kim to so some damage on Thursday. This will be a very tough matchup for the Terps and they'll probably need to be effective from the perimeter to stay in the game. Maryland has been adept at getting to the free throw line so how the game is officiated may also be a big factor.

I think Tom Izzo is one of the finest coaches in college basketball and might be my top choice if I was given my pick of coaches. It is interesting to note that even Izzo gets asked about his recent "disappointments" by clueless reporters. It is sad that fans get spoiled so quickly.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Vasquez ACC POW

Maryland fans may not appreciate Greivis Vasquez but the ACC certainly does. After averaging 27 points, 8.5 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals the junior was awarded player of the week in the ACC. His 3-point basket with six seconds left in regulation tied the game against Vermont and allowed Maryland to go to overtime where they promptly demolished the Catamounts with a 17-2 run. Vasquez certainly didn't play well the entire game and went back to his turnover prone ways at certain points but his two 3-point baskets were the dagger to Vermont's hopes at pulling an upset. Adrian Bowie had an excellent overtime period and finished with 17 points and 6 rebounds. Hopefully this will convince the coaching staff to give Bowie a more prominent spot in the rotation. I think playing Vasquez and Eric Hayes 42 and 35 minutes respectively isn't a good thing. Landon Milbourne showed he still has a ways to go with his defense as Marqus Blakely (23pts 11 reb) abused him for most of the night until Milbourne fouled out. Dino Gregory came in and played decent but not great defense against Blakely but he only grabbed 2 rebounds in 23 minutes. Cliff Tucker struggled as he did against Youngstown State even though his stat line looks decent. Tucker needs to develop more assertiveness when he is on the floor. Sean Mosley made a few early mistakes and got banished to the bench after only a few minutes. Let's hope that was a one time occurrence. Braxton Dupree struggled again but there were some positive signs, 6 rebounds in 8 minutes, but he got benched after struggling on defense against the smaller and quicker Vermont front line.

The Jerome Burney mystery continues from last season as he only saw two minutes against Vermont.

Dave Neal struggled in regulation with some poor shooting and rebounding but sunk two big 3-point shots and played inspired defense against Blakely in the overtime. It is an open question if Neal can be that effective in the ACC but against mid-major teams he can play in the post.

Jin Soo Kim played extensively in the overtime but didn't record a point or rebound. It was nice to see further evidence that Kim isn't just a chucker.

Vermont was clearly gassed in the overtime and the defensive effort that got them the lead in the 2nd half disappeared in overtime. Their legs were gone and none of their jump shots were falling. I jokingly said to my brother after Vasquez's 3-pointer put Maryland up 77-72 that "Vermont doesn't score again" and they almost didn't.

Vermont was clearly better than any of Maryland's previous opponents and exposed some things for the Terps to work on going forward. I don't think the game exposed any fatal flaws but maybe it brings the team down a few pegs. There are some aspects that need serious attention in the coming weeks. They'll need to play much better this week during the Old Spice Tournament.

Ratings
Offense: 112.4
Defense: 92.2



Not ready for primetime, again

So Maryland has played two Saturday night games on the four letter network and lost both those games by a combined score of 68-3. Yep, 68-3. During that horrendous 2nd quarter I couldn't help but think back to the games of 2002 and 2003 when really good Florida State teams would come in and smack Maryland around for 60 minutes and put the Terrapins back in their place as ACC also-rans. The 2008 Seminoles certainly are not anywhere near as good as those FSU squads, they still need Maryland to do their dirty work and beat Boston College to be able to even play for the ACC title, but the gap in talent and coaching that marked those early meetings between Friedgen's teams and the Seminoles was just as apparent.

After the game Friedgen resorted to his tactic of blaming the players for another of his failures, which was sad because I thought he gave up on that annoying habit back in 2005. I guess all the misty talk of how much he loves his players goes right out the window when you get your pants pulled down on national television. He is one of those coaches who really hates to lose, and in the days of pretty boy coaches those are fewer than you would think, so perhaps you can dismiss his finger pointing as a fit of passion. I'm not inclined to let him off the hook so easily.

It is true that the players, collectively, had a pretty poor game. Even though Chris Turner was running for his life all night long he still had a shaky performance. Many of his throws were off target, especially after Mickey Andrews dialed up the pressure, and his decisions on the two interceptions are impossible to explain or defend. He looked more unsure of himself than in any game since Middle Tennessee State. Turner had a dreadful night to be sure but he hardly got any help from his teammates of coaching staff. When your tackles cannot block a player one-on-one and you continue to try to protect the QB with only five pass protectors and rarely any tight end or back help is there any mystery why the quarterback looks so terrible? it is suicide to continue to take five step drops when you can't protect your passer. The screens were obvious and easily sniffed out by FSU and the offense only ran a handful of draws all night. In the first half Maryland called 25 passing plays and only 11 rushing plays even though they could not pass protect.

Da'Rel Scott had a nightmare game with two fumbles including one that went for what turned out to be the game ending touchdown by Florida State. His rushing totals look decent on the box score but they were inflated by a single 41 yard run. Five of Scott's 12 rushing attempts netted 3 yards or less. After his fumble he was banished to the bench for the rest of the 1st half in another example of how Friedgen sometimes lets his emotions get the better of him. Davin Meggett filled in well for Scott on the ground but the freshman doesn't know all of his pass protection reads. Against a team like FSU that is built to rush the passer and playing with a two touchdown lead that can be deadly.

The offensive line showed its weaknesses again in this game. It was no surprise they could not block the athletic front four for FSU. Friedgen shuffled the offensive line to show his displeasure but Jack Griffin and Dane Randolph coming off the bench are no upgrade at tackle. If this group can get a defender locked up they can drive block fairly well but in space or pass blocking they will struggle against mobile defenders.

The defense wasn't horrible but didn't play well either. The time of possession angle gets thrown in often by those seeking to excuse the defensive breakdowns. In this game that hardly had any effect. In the first half the time of possession was even and the defense still surrendered two touchdowns and gave up 50% on third down conversions. The two scoring drives in the first half that the defense surrendered came following a seven play drive by Maryland's offense resulting in a missed field goal and a 10 play drive by Maryland that resulted in an interception. Those scoring drives were not the result of three-and-out possessions by the offense. When Turner's interception ended the last drive FSU took only four plays and just over a minute to cover 38 yards and score a touchdown. That score made it 21-0 and ended any realistic chance for a comeback. The offense didn't play well but that shouldn't let the defense off the hook by any means. Florida State scored on every possession in the 2nd half except when they took a knee at the end of the game. The defense could not force FSU to punt once they got into Maryland territory, every time the Seminoles crossed the 50 yard line they scored. That isn't good defense no matter what the offense was doing.

Maryland now gets to travel to Chestnut Hill this week and face a Boston College team that slugged the Seminoles in the mouth at Doak Campbell and then beat them up. The Eagles actually have a defense that can dominate an opponent and cause turnovers unlike this Maryland group. Boston College trails Maryland in every offensive category except rushing offense and there only by a grand total of 19 yards. True BC has a much better scoring offense but they also have a much better scoring defense. They win games the old fashioned way with a ferocious defense and a steady running game. Maybe this week the staff can look at the film of BC and take notes on what it takes to make a winning formula.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Terps and Green Mountain Boys

Maryland faces Vermont tonight and former assistant Mike Lonergan, who was barely in College Park long enough to get a set of business cards printed, returns as the head coach of the Catamounts. Gary Williams goes for win number 400 as head coach of the Terrapins. You can follow the game on-line with live scoring and tempo stats here courtesy of scacchoops.com.

I didn't get a chance to break down the Youngstown State game, not that it deserved much, but there were a few concerning things. Obviously the frontcourt has been even weaker than I feared it would be going into the year. Braxton Dupree and Jerome Burney are not adding much of anything. When you have two forwards in Dupree and Dave Neal who played 42 minutes and only combine to produce two points that is a serious concern. Dupree and Burney look like legitimate frontcourt players but the real question is do they have the mindset to be effective. Neither player looks to have much aggression or intensity in the low post. Defense and rebounding would be enough but neither is providing those basics at the moment. The game got sloppy in the 2nd half so the turnovers and offensive problems are a little exaggerated in the box score. Freshmen Jin Soo Kim and Sean Mosley will continue to provide some great scoring depth when Cliff Tucker and Landon Milbourne struggle like they did on Tuesday.

Michigan, Maryland's Big Ten opponent in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, upset 4th ranked UCLA the other night. Michigan should test Maryland more than some may have assumed but a win should give Maryland a nice RPI boost that you would not expect going into the season.

ACC Sports Journal breaks down several of the major areas of concern for the football team here.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Guest Q&A with Chant Rant

For the big showdown against the Seminoles we have a guest blogger again this week as Rich from ChantRant checks in and answers some questions regarding Florida State. Interesting that longtime defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews is getting such heat this season. Many thanks to Rich for the analysis.

1. The Seminole offense seems to humming along, leading the ACC in scoring and second in rushing yards. What kind of rushing attack does Jimbo Fisher like to employ (spread, option, etc)?

Rich: Well, the offense was humming along til the B.C. game. We doubt that Frank Spaziani, the Eagles D-Coordinator, has any ties to the Mafia, but his boys intimidated and outmuscled the Noles offense as well as any Soprano's crew. In previous games, FSU's run game was much improved over recent seasons. Jimbo Fisher, O-Coordinator and head-coach-in-waiting, is committed to building a balanced offense. So FSU runs out of various formations, including the I, spread, even an empty backfield. Say, what? Yes, empty backfield, because QB Christian Ponder is the Noles third leading rusher with 458 yards -- though a net of 309 shows that he's been a sack victim.

2. Mickey Andrews usually has a phenomenal defense and if you just look at yards allowed this group is pretty good however they have also been very uneven. Throwing out the first two cupcakes FSU us allowing a very un-Seminole like 24 points per game, what is the main explanation?

Rich: They've been hot and cold. Hence the rank of no. 8 in the ACC in Scoring Defense, giving up an average of 20.1 per game. But amazingly they're still no. 1 in the league in Total D. Hard to explain the inconsistency. They tend to either force 3-and-outs or allow big plays. That's why Mickey is beginning to feel some heat. The D was supposed to carry the team this year, while the young offense came of age. But Nole fans are very critical of the scheme he played in the loss to Georgia Tech, and then the letdown against B.C. One of the biggest knocks was that Andrews totally telegraphed blitz packages, yet B.C. had great success in disguising theirs.

3. It seems in recent weeks that RB Jermaine Thomas is taking over for Antone Smith. Please contrast their styles.

Rich: Smith is a Senior and is having his best year, undoubtedly looking forward to the NFL draft. He can really take off if he gets to the second level. And Smith's become a tackle-breaker, too. He ran over or through several Hurricanes to score the winning TD against Miami. Thomas is a true freshman and has good speed and size. But his biggest assets are quickness (he hits a crease in the blink of an eye) and great vision, so he's able to change course and weave for extra yardage.

4. Quarterback Christian Ponder seems to make mistakes in bunches. What kinds of defenses or schemes get him to to turn the ball over?

Rich: Ponder is young and still learning the finer points of quarterbacking. So he can look like a smart, seasoned veteran for several minutes, then throw into a crowd for an INT. Last Saturday, B.C. confused him with zone coverages, while their D-line put the pressure on. Result: his worst game of the season, except for the Wake game when he was far more wet behind the ears. Despite B.C.'s fierce rush, Ponder threw late several times. Then again, with FSU's three top receivers out of the game, timing had to be a problem. Still, Jimbo Fisher is committed to Ponder, thanks to his mobility and threat to tuck and run for a first down. And as no. 5 in the ACC in individual Total Offense, he must be doing something right.

But watch out for jersey no. 10. Ponder's backup is an athletic water bug of a QB named D'Vontrey Richardson. Not that there's a QB controversy here, because D'Vo has played very sparingly. But FSU fans love to see him enter the game, because they know something exciting will probably happen. Richardson can burn teams with his legs, and with his arm. For example, Jimbo set up Georgia Tech by running him three or four times, then faking a run as Richardson zipped a 39-yd. TD to Preston Parker in the end zone.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Terps set up showdown with FSU

Maryland's win over North Carolina won't get any awards for style points but the result was exactly what Maryland needed to keep its ACC Championship hopes alive. In another monsoon, like the game against NC State a few weeks earlier, the Terps were able to keep the ground game moving the chains and relied on QB Chris Turner to make the critical throws when needed. In contrast North Carolina's Cam Sexton had little support from the Carolina ground game and was forced to convert third and long downs in the worst weather conditions. Sexton certainly struggled with his accuracy but when your QB is facing third and nine yards or more in eight of your eleven third downs in those conditions you're not going to be successful. Chris Turner also faced a number of third and long downs and until that last game winning drive he was only two for ten. Turner converted a 3rd and 7, 3rd and 10 and a 4th down on the penultimate drive to win the game. Throw in a critical fumble by Sexton deep in Maryland territory and a botched field goal late in the game and that was the margin of defeat for the Tar Heels. Chris Turner not only made the throws and scrambles when he needed but in difficult weather never turned the ball over, even though he had some close calls with a few near interceptions. Interesting historical note that former UNC kicker Connor Barth missed a field goal in overtime in 2005 to hand Maryland a victory in Chapel Hill and his brother Casey was the kicker who missed a 28 yard field goal that would have forced Maryland to score a touchdown to win the game.

The offensive line bounced back after a dreadful game against Virginia Tech and pretty much had their way against the Carolina defensive line. The 195 yards rushing was an impressive feat given that Carolina must have known given the weather that Maryland would try to play conservative and run the ball. Turner got decent protection for most of the game and especially on the last critical drive. Center Edwin Williams, who has had an uneven season, was awarded ACC Offensive Lineman of the Week for his performance. The rest of the line also had a very solid performance particularly the guards Phil Costa and Jamie Thomas in dominating Carolina's tackles. The line's dominating performance also allowed the Terps to control the clock 40 minutes to 20, which helped the defense stay off the field and fresh.

Da'Rel Scott isn't fully healthy but as the game went on he seemed to get more comfortable running the ball. His shoulder is clearly influencing his running style and he seems to be turning his shoulders in anticipation of contact. A speed back coming to Maryland he has proven he is also plenty tough but he is clearly not 100%. Davin Meggett proved to be a great counter punch with 86 yards on his own. One of Meggett's strengths is that he rarely ever gets stopped for negative yards, he only has lost 4 yards the entire season. The Terps need Scott's speed and big play capability but with his injury he isn't running through tackles like he did earlier in the year. The line will have to help him more like they did against UNC and NC State.

Wide receiver Ronnie Tyler only had two grabs but they were the biggest receptions of the game. On a 3rd and 16 at the end of the 1st quarter Tyler caught a 18 yard pass to move the chains on a drive that resulted in a Maryland touchdown. Most important on the game winning drive Tyler also caught an 18 yard pass on a 3rd and 10 to help get Maryland into field goal territory. There may be hope next season even with all the top receivers likely departing.

I'll give some thoughts on the defense tomorrow...

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Bison no match for Terps

It didn't start off as smooth as some fans may have liked but by the 2nd half the men's basketball team was playing like it had the previous week against Northwood in its opening game against Bucknell. There were clearly some opening night jitters among the players, the players and coach Williams admitted so after the game, and that resulted in some poor shooting in the 1st half. A combination of Maryland's defense and some poor execution by the Bison resulted in a 33-17 halftime lead for the Terps. In the 2nd half the offense got much better and the players started getting more aggressive in the half court and in transition. After starting the game shooting a putrid 34% from the floor, only a little of that having to do with Bucknell's zone defense, the team picked it up in the 2nd half with a 53% mark. Some of the improvement was due to Maryland getting out on the fast break, which they struggled to do in the 1st half, but they also ran the half court sets more efficiently. The defense played very well for most of the night. There were some breakdowns in the 2nd half and the team needs to work on defending high screens but overall Bucknell really had to work for decent looks at the basket.

It was nice to see Eric Hayes and Greivis Vasquez not have to play nearly 40 minutes like they often did last year. This game helped validate that Cliff Tucker and Adrian Bowie are ready to contribute this season and that there isn't a significant drop off when those two are in the game. Hayes played 19 minutes, though he did have to sit the last 5 minutes of the 1st half after picking up his second foul, and Vasquez played 29 which is about what I'd like to see this season. Both will be more effective if they are not forced to play the 30+ minutes per game they were forced to play last year. One of the major differences from last year is that the bench will actually be useful this season. Against Bucknell the bench scored 29 points which was more than the bench scored in any game last season. That is a great improvement from the a situation that required Greivis Vasquez and James Gist to score 20 points per game for the team to be successful. This Maryland team is deeper at the guard positions than any team Gary Williams has had in years.

Hayes played well in picking his spots and getting the offensive sets running. Hayes picked up four defensive rebounds in the 1st half and had a number of nice plays on defense as well even though it is not considered his strength. Jerome Burney lost the handle on a rebound and it was picked up by a Bucknell player leaving Hayes as the only man standing in his way to the basket. Hayes quickly bodied the taller and heavier Bucknell forward and forced him to travel. It was a great play, the kind that never get picked up in the box score. Hayes doesn't have the offensive skills that some of the other guards have but if he continues to play like he did on Friday he can be very useful to this team.

Greivis Vasquez came back from his one game suspension for a team rules violation and had a mostly effective game. He lead the team with 6 assists though he rarely played point guard, which demonstrates his versatility and effectiveness. It still boggles my mind that some fans felt he was part of the problem last year. He added 6 rebounds and 2 steals to his 13 points and only had one turnover. After his lone turnover he was apparently heckled by someone in the student section because at the TV timeout immediately following Gary Williams turned and let loose a string of invective at the culprit. That probably explains Williams prickly post game interview. I can't understand what would possess someone to boo or heckle their own players not even 10 minutes into the season but that is the state of things these days in College Park. So much for the idea that Maryland has great basketball fans. Vasquez still struggled with his shot selection, a bigger bugaboo that his turnovers last season, and only went 6/15 from the floor. Hopefully he'll settle down and take some better shots.

Bowie and Tucker both played very nice games. It is obvious that they are both significantly improved from their freshman season when they looked tentative and lost at times. Both are playing with great confidence on both ends of the floor. The duo bring a quickness and athleticism to the game that Hayes and Vasquez lack. Their ability to pressure the ball and get steals off weak side double teams is a great improvement from last year. Besides lacking production off the bench the Terps would hardly get any steals from their half court defense but Bowie and Tucker combined for four steals against the Bison. Both players are very efficient in on offense and Tucker is really developing into the kind of all around offensive threat that he wasn't last year. He is probably gets out in transition better than any player on the team but has added a sweet midrange jumper and three point shot to his arsenal. Last season foul shooting was also a problem for both Bowie and Tucker who shot 52% and 40% from the line respectively. This season they have combined to go 11/13 from the free throw line against Northwood and Bucknell. That shows some real hard work over the summer and a vital improvement in what is a glaring weakness for a guard.

Landon Milbourne is showing an aggressiveness that he has not shown in two years at College Park. He seems more aware on the floor and more confident than he ever has and maybe the status as a team captain has really helped his self confidence. His two games to start the year have been dominating on offense where he is averaging 18 points and 5 rebounds. On defense he is also much more effective than last season and is even using his quickness to jump passing lanes and grab steals. His shooting is excellent, especially his free throw shooting, and if he can continue drawing fouls like he did against Bucknell he will be a great offensive weapon.

The one troubling sign is the lack of production by the froncourt players. Braxton Dupree looks like his confidence has been wrecked and assistant Joe Harrington spent about five minutes during halftime warmups trying to motivate Dupree. Dupree's stat line looks better than you would think after watching him struggle all night. Perhaps it is a good sign that he scored 6 points and grabbed 6 rebounds even though he really had an awful night. I think there is room for improvement with Dupree and his real struggles are mental. He has to do a better job in protecting the ball in the post and developing stronger hands. Jerome Burney was barely noticeable in his 10 minutes on the floor. Dino Gregory was a pleasant surprise in limited minutes providing great energy and hustle with 5 rebounds, two blocks and a steal in only 10 minutes. This team doesn't need Gregory to score much but if he can provide those kinds of hustle stats he will be very useful. A sign of the struggling front court was the 16 minutes played by Dave Neal. He had a few nice plays on offense but really struggle on the defensive end. The perimeter defenders will have to get used to the fact that there are no shot blockers behind them like Bambale Osby and James Gist this season.

The freshmen played well as a group and will be a factor this year. Sean Mosley admitted he was "hyper" for his first college game and it showed. He missed several shots you'd expect him to make (1/5 from the floor) but again I think that was a function of nerves. He still put up three points, four rebounds and four assists which in your first college game isn't bad. On defense I felt he and fellow frosh Jin Soo Kim gave nice effort. To see Kim guarding a player about six inches shorter 20 feet from the basket was impressive. He wasn't spectacular but held his own with a defensive assignment that few 6'8" players could handle. Though Kim only took three field goals he still scored 5 points which is a small indication of his offensive prowess. Forward Steve Goins had a few minutes in garbage time but looked okay and may get a large role if the froncourt woes continue.

Coach Williams was really shifting lineups and substitutions all night long and fans should expect more of that over the next three games. Once the players start to establish roles the rotations should become more regular. While the returning starters and Bowie and Tucker have established themselves the rest of the positions are waiting for someone to step up to claim them. With the struggles of Virginia Tech, Florida State and NC State in their opening games there is reason to be optimistic with what this group can accomplish.

The efficiency stats for the first two games:


As you can see the offense took a dive from the 141.8 against Northwood to a respectable, but not great, 102.9 against Bucknell. The defense improved though from 83.4 against Northwood, pretty damn good on its own, to a fantastic 67.4 against the Bison. Two trends that deserve some watching: there may be a weakness in giving up offensive rebounds like last season and the first two opponents have gotten to the free throw line a little too often.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Guest blogger: Tareye or Buckheel

We have a guest blogger for the big North Carolina game tomorrow. Jacob from Tareye or Buckheel was kind enough to give some insightful answers to the burning questions going into this showdown that will shape the ACC championship one way or another. Note the style of the North Carolina defense sounds familiar does it not?

1. It seems Hakeem Nicks hasn't missed a beat even though Brandon Tate is out for the season. How has UNC been able to still get Nicks the ball with almost certain double teams? Is another receiver taking the pressure off of Nicks?

Tareye or Buckheel: Carolina had great depth at receiver when the season began.  Nicks and Tate were an excellent duo, and Brooks Foster provided that clutch third down receiving threat.

The Heels don't run sets with more than three wide receivers that often, so Nicks and Foster have both stepped up in Tate's absence.  Nicks is an excellent route runner, which contributes to his receptions despite being double teamed.  Foster could start for many teams, and the Heels haven't really missed much in receiving, besides the deep threat of Tate.

Offensive coordinator uses a lot of motion and isn't afraid of lining up receivers at different positions to create favorable matchups.  Also, the receivers are well disciplined and run crisp routes.


2. Shaun Draughn and Ryan Houston seem to be the main rushing threats for North Carolina's offense. Could you give a quick scouting report on their different styles or abilities?

Draughn is a converted safety that is very similar in style to Greg Little, who was benched, except that Draughn turns up field quickly. Draughn has not demonstrated the ability to consistently get past the secondary, thus limiting him to short, quick chunks of yards.  However, against Georgia Tech Draughn had a huge run that broke through the secondary.

Houston is the change-of-pace back that comes in for short yardage and goal line situations.  Houston is humongous, but possesses deceptive speed.  In my opinion, he has the better future at running back if he continues to slim down.  Houston will not run around you, but instead will opt to run through you with a fullback's mentality.


3. North Carolina's defense has been great at forcing turnovers and has 18 interceptions this season (four of those for touchdowns). If UNC can force Maryland's Chris Turner into some mistakes who will probably be responsible on Carolina's defense?

Safety Trimane Goddard leads the nation with six interceptions through only nine games.  Goddard has made some huge plays after interceptions, and his two picks against Miami led a late-game comeback.

The Heels rely on playing excellent coverage and using the front four to pressure the quarterback.  Carolina's defensive tackles do most of the disputing with big Marvin Austin leading the way.  Austin is huge, listed at 305 pounds, and gobbles running gaps up in addition to having the speed to rush the passer.  If Austin is getting into the backfield, then Turner is likely to make a mistake.


4. How will North Carolina's defense try to attack Maryland's offense?

Defensive coordinator Withers plays a safe type of defense where the front four are called on to solely get pressure on the quarterbacks.  I have seen Withers call blitzes, but they are mostly on running downs.  The result of this defense is that Carolina tends to give up its fair share of yards, but a lack of patience from opponents leads to the high interceptions by the Heels.

This bend-but-don't-break mentality has gotten Carolina into trouble.  Late in games Carolina has used a prevent style defense.  Notre Dame and Miami had chances to win games late, but the Heels forced turnovers in both instances.  Virginia won on a relatively easy touchdown drive after struggling to move the ball all game. Boston College scored two touchdowns against this defense.  Bottom line--Heels fans are praying that we don't have to use this up by only a score.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Shuffle the lineups

Two notes on lineups for both football and basketball.

Football: the defensive line is getting a makeover for this week against North Carolina. Jeremy Navarre is being moved back to defensive end where Mack Frost has been unable to recover from his knee injury and Dean Muhtadi has struggled valiently to play a role he shouldn't be asked to fill. With Rick Costa out of the picture Trey Covington will likely take the majority of snaps at the LEO. Inside Travis Ivey will take over Navarre's position and Dion Armstrong may share snaps with Bemi Otulaja at nose tackle. I don't think Ivey or Armstrong are ready to claim those positions this season and I am skeptical that this will significantly improve the pass rush or run defense.

Basketball: Gary Williams did confirm to Patrick Stevens of the Washington Times that Eric Hayes, Landon Milbourne and Greivis Vasquez will start tomorrow night against Bucknell. There was some confusion over whether Vasquez's suspension would carry over to the opening game, he sat out the exhibition against Northwood, but it appears he will play. We'll have to check in at game time to see what was true. Sean Mosley, who looked fine to me last week, will also be ready to play. My guess is that the other two starters are Cliff Tucker and Braxton Dupree. I could also see as many as five other players getting the other two starting spots. The introductions will be interesting.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Hiding Portis

I've been critical of the token use of QB Josh Portis at times this season but in thinking about the loss to Virginia Tech I'm not sure why he wasn't used on a few plays. The Hokies were shutting down the running game and Da'Rel Scott was clearly not the same player from before his shoulder got reinjured against N.C. State so it would have made sense to put a dual threat in the backfield. Portis could even be used in the backfield with Chris Turner as that could cause some serious confusion to the opposing defense. Alternating him in at quarterback, running back or slot receiver could make his athletic skills much more dangerous, especially if the offense utilized some pre-snap shifts. Portis is of limited utility because he can't seem to read defenses or totally grasp the playbook but in limited circumstances he could be effective.

It looks like linebacker Rick Costa may be suspended indefinitely after getting into a fight outside a bar in College Park. Costa struck a bouncer and then assaulted a police officer who responded to the scene. Cost was intoxicated. It might spell the end of Costa's career at Maryland which would be a shame with only four games left in his senior season (including a bowl game).

Mike DeCourcy rated Greivis Vasquez as the 10th best point guard in the nation. That is interesting because it seems this year that Vasquez will play off the ball much more often than last season. Based on the scrimmage I think Vasquez will struggle with this transition for at least a while. He is a lightning rod of criticism for discontented fans and often gets blamed for things that are not really his fault. His poor outside shooting and questionable shot selection were often bigger detriments to the team than his turnovers but the narrative that has taken hold is that his turnovers are his major flaw. Vasquez's 77 turnovers in ACC play certainly made things difficult but the combined 80 turnovers by James Gist and Bambale Osby, who both barely handled the ball in comparison to Vasquez, get little mention. The myth that Eric Hayes was the more "steady" point guard is belied by the fact that in ACC games Hayes had a worse assist to turnover ratio than Vasquez (1.53 to 1.56). For the season Hayes, Osby and Gist all had turnover rates that were comparable to Vasquez. On average the other starters outside James Gist couldn't be expected to offer much help to Vasquez and the bench contribution was nonexistent for much of the season. Greivis was often presented with double teams because the opposing coach knew that the likelihood that Eric Hayes, Landon Milbourne or a bench player would beat them was extremely low. This season I think this team will be much better and deeper off the bench even if it will lose most of the frontcourt presence. If Jerome Burney and Braxton Durpee can chop Gist and Osby's 80 combined turnovers in half then they will have made up a good amount of those lost points.

I'm intrigued to see how, or if, Vasquez will be able to modify his game to complement the improved backcourt around him now. I think he will be able to do that because I don't think he is the kind of selfish player he has been portrayed as by some. You don't dish out 231 assists in a season if you are a selfish player and the comparisons to John Gilchrist should stop at that point alone. It is a cliche but Vasquez is a player that can be swayed by his emotions, often to a fault. If he has matured in the off season and can improve his decision making he may be a better player even if his statistics are below last season.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Terps roll in exhibition

Maryland buried the Northwood Seahawks on Saturday in a 104-60 romp that may just signal the need for a reevaluation of the fortunes of the basketball team this year. It was an offensive clinic for most of the game as the Terps shot 50% from the floor and 89% from the free throw line. Former Villanova coach Rollie Massimino is in charge at Northwood and though they play in the NAIA they are well coached and have solid players. Northwood is ranked #4 preseason in the NAIA coming off of a 27-8 record last year and has a first team All-American in F DeSean White. Villanova, ranked 23rd in the preseason, only managed to score 75 points against this same Northwood team last week. It is only one game and the test will be to see if this group can sustain those kinds of efforts, unlike the 2007 squad, across their schedule but you can't just dismiss the efforts of Landon Milbourne, Jin Soo Kim and the rest of the squad as a product of woeful competition. I would also point out that Maryland didn't score over 90 points in any game last season and never showed the offensive firepower that this team showed against Northwood. Keep in mind the team did this without 2nd team All-ACC player and leading scorer Greivis Vasquez, who was suspended for a violation of an undisclosed team rule, and heralded freshman Sean Mosley who sat after twisting his ankle in practice though he could have easily played if the team needed him. Both will be back for the season opener against Bucknell on Friday.

Before I get to Jin Soo Kim it is only fitting to give credit to some of the players back from last year who showed great improvement. Landon Milbourne is more aggressive and confident than I have ever seen him. His feel for the game, lacking the first two years, seems to have improved tremendously and he is using his incredible athleticism with more effectiveness. He was a force rebounding, scoring and on defense, where he got three steals. The junior captain finished with 20 points on 9/15 shooting and grabbed 7 rebounds in just 22 minutes for a very solid outing. Adrain Bowie and Cliff Tucker are also greatly improved over last season. Tucker is as smooth a player as there is on the team with very little wasted effort in his game. He glides out on fast breaks and has an impressive ability to weave through traffic in the lane. Tucker finished with 17 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists and has greatly improved his free throw shooting. He is one of those jack of all trades players who can do a little of everything and will be very valuable to the team this year, if not as a starter. Bowie also did a good job scoring with 16 points on 6/7 shooting and four rebounds but I felt he struggled a bit. He wasn't as smooth running the point as Hayes or even Tucker and he should play better defense than he did against Northwood. I think Bowie will be a very important member of the team especially on defense because he is the best ball defender of the group. Bowie and Tucker have the ability to put more pressure on opposing guards than either Hayes or Vasquez and will be a tough defensive tandem. I am confident Bowie will improve but right now I think he isn't as comfortable or effective as I expected him to be this year. Eric Hayes was steady running the point and can hit an open 3-pointer if given the opportunity. As long as Bowie, Tucker, Milbourne and Kim can provide more scoring his limitations on defense and dribble penetrations won't be as detrimental. Hayes is obviously more comfortable in his role this year because he can't play shooting guard and be effective.

Jin Soo Kim. You're going to hear that name often this season. As I indicated last week Kim would contribute to this team in his first season but I have to admit I didn't appreciate how good Kim really is until I saw him live on Saturday. At 6'8" Kim is a rare package of shooting, ball handling, passing and basketball savvy. He has a great feel for the game and sense of when to pass, pull up and shoot or take his man to the basket. He was very nervous and tense in the early going, while missing his first five shots and you could see the tension release when he hit a 3-pointer with fourteen minutes left in the game. From that point on Kim went 6/8 from the floor and hit five free throws to finish with 18 points in just 14 minutes of the second half. That is pretty incredible. You have to go back to Joe Smith to find a freshman who had that kind of debut as a Terrapin and he did it with only three days of practice. There is some danger of raising expectations too high but you have to also acknowledge that no one on the team seemed surprised by Kim's performance and reports are that Kim was doing the same kinds of things in scrimmages and pick up games for weeks. It seems to explain why his former prep coach felt he would have been a top player in his class had he participated in the AAU circuit. Kim didn't look like a lost freshman, he looked like a veteran in the flex offense and when his outside shot wasn't falling he went inside to get points the old fashion way. Kim isn't any one trick pony like Mike Jones as he can score in a myriad of ways and get to the foul line. You need to seriously put him in the discussion now for the All-ACC freshman team because he has a skill set that is on the level of Kyle Singler from Duke but with less bulk and a better first step. Some have compared him to former Duke Blue Devil Mike Dunlevey and I don't think that is a bad comparison. Dunlevey was certainly more physical than Kim is at the moment but I think Kim will prove to be a better free throw and outside shooter than Dunlevey. Comcast Center was electric every time Kim touched the ball in the 2nd half and you probably have to go back to Mike Jones for that sort of buzz of anticipation for a Maryland player. Kim's major challenge may be in shouldering some weighty expectations from fans this year. Gary Williams just found another gem.

It wasn't all good news as I felt Braxton Dupree continued to struggle. The sophomore still looks a step to slow and out of sync on offense. He did score 8 points and grab 8 rebounds but I think he may struggle to provide the inside balance Maryland may need. If he and Jerome Burney can just play defense and rebound that may be enough for this team. A few years ago Virginia went 11-5 with a frontcourt that wasn't much better than what Maryland has because those players understood their role in relation to Sean Singletary and J.R. Reynolds. Virginia's Jason Cain should be the model for Maryland's froncourt players this year. Cain was a scrapper and embraced doing all the dirty work to help Virginia win. I think Dupree and Burney may have that in them too.

For now there is a real glimmer of hope that this won't be a lost season after all and that maybe, just maybe, this group might be worthy of dancing in March. Who would have thought? 

Let's buckle up and enjoy the ride.

Friday, November 07, 2008

What is that French word?

Stop me if you've heard this story before: Maryland enters a prime time nationally televised game against a good opponent and gets completely out played and out coached.

Heard that one already? I bet you have. The Terps are 2-5 in the last 7 games on the four letter network and the average margin of defeat in those losses is 11 points. It doesn't really do the program much good to play these games when most of the time the rest of the country only tunes in to see you get your teeth kicked in.

The final score, 23-13, wasn't really indicative of how the Hokies dominated Maryland for most of the game. I'm not surprised at the outcome though I was hoping Maryland would put on a better showing against one of the more mediocre Frank Beamer teams in recent memory. Since Virginia Tech lobbied then Governor Mark Warner to strong arm Virginia into bringing them to a party they were not invited to Ralph Friedgen's merry bunch have been totally outmatched against the Hokies every time they have played. In the previous two losses, both awful blowouts, Virginia Tech clearly had the better squad, but in this game that wasn't true. What was consistent was that from head coach to waterboy the Virginia Tech staff ran circles around their Maryland counterparts. I'm not entirely sure what Chris Cosh has to do to get fired. The low point of his tenure at Maryland might have been in the 2nd quarter with Maryland trailing 14-3 Virginia Tech committed a delay of game penalty after calling a timeout. Facing a third and long by Virginia Tech Maryland had to call a timeout because the play call was unclear to the players on the field. There was a timeout by the Hokies and a penalty yet Cosh didn't have his defense ready. Tensions simmered over and cameras caught Ralph Friedgen yelling at his defensive coordinator.

The defense didn't help Cosh with some wretched tackling that made running back Darren Evans, who only mustered 27 yards on 17 carries against Boston College, look like Adrain Peterson. Evans is a good back, but not great, and he often wasn't touched until he was five yards down field. Still, Cosh's reactive schemes have little chance of making use of the talent he has on the roster. Clearly this group would be better with Erin Henderson or Dre Moore at their positions, or even a healthy Kevin Barnes, but when you continue to rush four and drop everyone else into coverage on obvious passing downs you deserve to get steamrolled. The defense couldn't force the mistake prone Sean Glennon into a single turnover partly because it couldn't stop the run and partly because they took no chances going after Glennon. Virginia Tech wasn't doing anything fancy in the running game but the defensive line continued to get blown off the point of attack while the linebackers got locked up by their blockers like they had velcro on. The corner position went from a position of depth to a weakness with the season ending injury to Kevin Barnes. Nolan Carroll tries hard but if the schemes keep him eight yards off the line then he has no chance to stop quick outs. Terrell Skinner is a demon and has no fear throwing his body around but he hasn't been the same since his injury earlier in the season. In short the Virginia Tech offense was pitiful and undermanned going into this game but was able to move the ball at will against Cosh's group.

The offensive line was one of the more glaring culprits in this loss. There isn't much experimenting with lineups at this point in the season. Replacement Bruce Campbell gave up the sack which caused Chris Turner to fumble the ball in the early part of the 3rd quarter. The group effort was awful in both pass and run blocking. They mustered a paltry 13 yards rushing not including the sack yardage and failed to open any holes for Da'Rel Scott or Davin Meggett. Turner was constantly harassed and hit by Bud Fosters aggressive defense, but he still played a fairly good game. This offensive line may be experienced but it frankly isn't any good.

It is a simple formula but when you can't run the ball and can't stop the run you haven't got a chance. Without a coaching change the defense will continue to hold Maryland back from contending in the ACC. This loss turns the game against Florida State into a likely winner take all contest. If Maryland could not stop Virginia Tech's mediocre rushing attack (3.6 yards per rush on the year) then they have little chance to stop FSU's 197 yards per game Juggernaut.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Moten probable

Linebacker Adrian Moten will return to the lineup tonight against Virginia Tech tonight after recovering from his wrist surgery weeks ago. He will play with a cast so it remains to be seen how that will effect his ability to tackle. Moten will help if Virginia Tech plays one of their mobile quarterbacks and in the pass defense if pocket passer Sean Glennon plays. Having Moten spy Tyrod Taylor or Cory Holt in obvious passing downs may cut down on the long scrambles that plagued the Terps defense against NC State.

In a bizarre twist Gus Gilchrist was granted a hardship waiver by the NCAA and will be eligible to play at South Florida this season. His svengali Terrelle Woody has already been hired by South Florida's coaching staff and got in trouble by conducting professional training sessions in violation of NCAA rules. Obviously Stan Heath, the former Arkansas head coach, is on his way to creating a sleazy bottom feeder program at South Florida.

Meanwhile Jin Soo Kim had to fight to get cleared to play at Maryland? Got to love the NCAA.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Kim cleared by NCAA


The appeal of the NCAA's initial denial of Maryland recruit Jin Soo Kim was granted and Kim will be eligible to join the team and begin practicing. His first public appearance will be the exhibition scrimmage this Saturday against Northwood. It appears whatever the stumbles that were made in the initial application process have been corrected. At least in this case it appears the NCAA did the right thing.

Kim will contribute to the squad very early this year. Gary Williams has already indicated he is the best 3-point shooter on the team already and he may be one of the best long range snipers in the whole conference. Even though Landon Milbourne is a decent outside threat and Eric Hayes is okay when he has the time and space to get his shot off Kim will add a new dimension to Maryland's offense. He is rail thin but at the wing, where he will mostly play this year, that isn't a big problem. He has good passing and ball handling skills for a 6'8" forward and will be a mismatch for most forwards in the conference on offense. Kim also seems to move very well away from the ball and I think he will flourish in the flex offense. While he may not have the bulk of some players that doesn't mean he doesn't like contact. He can slash to the basket, is aggressive in rebounding and will put forth good effort on defense. Kim is not some passive wing player who just wants to shoot jumpers all day. I am sure that if Kim had not been injured and played AAU basketball he would have been a top 50 recruit in 2009. He graduated high school in three years and is a good student. Kim will also have the distinction of being the first Korean player in NCAA history.

Here are some videos of Kim in action.




Monday, November 03, 2008

Terps in driver's seat

With both Boston College and Florida State going down in defeat Maryland is in first place in the Atlantic division in the ACC and has an inside track to the ACC Championship game. They have a two game lead on Wake Forest (3-2) due to the head to head win over the Deacons and have a one game lead over Florida State (3-2). The November 22nd game against FSU looms large and will probably go a long way to deciding who will win the division.

If Da'Rel Scott cannot play on Thursday due to his shoulder injury the running game is in good hands with freshman Davin Meggett. The steady and productive Meggett gets the star treatment in the Washington Post today. Virginia Tech's defense is not up to the usual Bud Foster level but it is probably the best run defense that the Terps have faced so far this season. It will be interesting to see if Meggett and the offensive line will be able to move the ball on the ground.

Basketball

Jin Soo Kim has an appeal before the NCAA pending after his clearinghouse application was denied due to some internet coursework he took while recuperating from shoulder surgery in Korea. Apparently these on-line courses were approved by the NCAA but they are not convinced Kim took the courses himself. This is one of those great situations where the student is guilty until he proves himself innocent. Once again the stupidity and hypocrisy of the NCAA is on full display in this matter. This is the same NCAA that allowed players to go to Georgetown and George Washington who had transcipts from a phony diploma mill called Lutheran Christian. The NCAA then went on a quixotic campaign to clean up this problem, only after the media started reporting on these half baked and fictitious prep schools, and the whole thing ended in just the kind of boondoggle you'd expect with academic bureaucrats trying to administer a business with over half a billion dollars in revenue.

If the NCAA denies Kim's appeal it will be the end of his career at Maryland and it is likely he will return to Korea to play for the national team. This would be a big loss for Maryland as Kim has the kinds of offensive skills that you cannot teach. It would help if the administration at Maryland would actually advocate for Kim or hire professionals who do this kind of thing for a living but in what has become the normal provincial fashion the University doesn't have the sense or desire to do the right thing.

You may have missed that North Carolina's Roy Williams and the ACC are advocating that college players be given less time to decide when they are going to enter the NBA draft. This is obviously a transparent attempt by Williams to get a better sense of what his roster is going to be like for the next season and has nothing to do with what is right for the college athlete. Georgia Tech's Paul Hewitt, as sensible a coach in college basketball today and who has just as much to gripe about in regards to early departures for the NBA as Williams, was very concerned that this rule would make things even more difficult and risky for players who were unsure about their status on draft boards. Hewitt obviously cares more about his player's futures than he does about how difficult the rule makes his job, whereas Williams seems only concerned with how it makes his multimillion dollar salary job more challenging. Mike DeCourcy had a great summary of the proposed rule here.

"This is such a grand, epic mistake. It's based entirely on the coaches' self-interest -- not what is best for the college game, the sport in general or the players who make it all work."


I couldn't agree more.